Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire Democrat making a late-stage push for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, is hiring social media influencers for $150 per post via the Tribe app as part of the candidate’s political ad blitz, PEOPLE confirms.
Bloomberg, who turned 78 years old on Friday, has spent hundreds of millions on political ads since announcing his 2020 bid in late November, nearly a year after most of the other Democratic candidates launched their campaigns.
A spokesperson for the Bloomberg campaign tells PEOPLE it is currently using the Tribe app to hire individual social media influencers to create memes and post them to their profiles on sites like Instagram and Twitter.
The Daily Beast first reported the advertising tactic last week.
On Thursday, the New York Times reported that the Bloomberg campaign has reached a deal with a new media company called Meme 2020, which consists of some of the most influential people in meme culture, including Mick Purzycki, the chief executive of Jerry Media — the company infamously known for its work promoting the disastrous Fyre Festival in 2017.
The partnership with Meme 2020 is much more lucrative than the campaign’s promotion on the Tribe app, though it shows the campaign linking up with some of the biggest social media influencers in the world.
The Times reports that Meme 2020 has a collective audience of more than 60 million followers through its group of influencers, which includes popular meme pages like @tank.sinatra, @MyTherapistSays, @WhitePeopleHumor, and many more.
“Mike Bloomberg 2020 has teamed up with social creators to collaborate with the campaign, including the meme world,” Sabrina Singh, a spokesperson for the Bloomberg campaign, said in a statement given to PEOPLE. “While a meme strategy may be new to presidential politics, we’re betting it will be an effective component to reach people where they are and compete with President Trump’s powerful digital operation.”
The memes all follow a similar format, showing direct messages from Bloomberg’s official accounts sent to the meme pages’ inboxes, asking them to create a meme that will make Bloomberg seem like the “cool” candidate. The tongue-in-cheek memes are meant to make the billionaire candidate seem self-aware that he, a 78-year-old politician, might not be very in tune with social media.
“Hello Jerry,” one meme posted on Jerry Media’s account on Thursday reads. “My granddaughter showed me this account. Your memes are very humorous. Can you post a meme that lets everyone know that I’m the cool candidate?”
The memes, which are meant to look like direct messages sent from Bloomberg’s official account, also poke fun at the billionaire’s net worth, another common criticism of the Democratic candidate: “Oof that will cost like a billion dollars,” the Jerry Media reply reads, before Bloomberg shoots back: “What’s your Venmo?”
The Bloomberg effort to reach voters through political memes comes as President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign continues to use memes to reach its conservative base, and attack those on the left.
President Trump regularly posts and shares memes on his social media accounts, including a meme Thursday making fun of Bloomberg.
“Mini Mike Bloomberg is a LOSER who has money but can’t debate and has zero presence, you will see,” Trump tweeted Thursday, retweeting a meme showing a miniaturized image of Bloomberg standing in front of an image of Trump from 2017 when he cut a symbolic red tape in front of stacks of paper representing tax regulations.
Mini Mike Bloomberg is a LOSER who has money but can’t debate and has zero presence, you will see. He reminds me of a tiny version of Jeb “Low Energy” Bush, but Jeb has more political skill and has treated the Black community much better than Mini! https://t.co/qIef5VhjDr— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 13, 2020
House Democrats can push their sham impeachment all they want.— Trump War Room - Text WOKE to 88022 (@TrumpWarRoom) December 10, 2019
President Trump's re-election is 𝗶𝗻𝗲𝘃𝗶𝘁𝗮𝗯𝗹𝗲. pic.twitter.com/O7o02S26nS
But memes haven’t worked out perfectly for the Trump campaign.
The president’s re-election campaign and his allies have continuously tripped over their own efforts to make poignant memes, including a memorable moment in December when the Trump 2020 campaign shared a photoshopped video portraying Trump as the Marvel supervillain Thanos — an evil comic book character who commits mass genocide.
“Thanos was the bad guy who was eventually defeated by the good guys. So great meme, idiots,’ one user wrote in response.
Yeardley Smith, the actor behind The Simpsons character Lisa Simpson, and some Democratic lawmakers recently blasted Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for incorrectly using a meme from the show’s third season. Pompeo was aiming to make fun of House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who ripped up President Trump’s State of the Union address earlier this month, by sharing a meme of Lisa crying as she rips up a piece of paper in a 1991 episode titled, “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington.”
However, in the episode, the Simpsons character is actually ripping up an essay on American greatness after she witnesses a congressman take a bribe, causing her to temporarily lose faith in democracy.
“In this episode Lisa loses her faith in democracy after seeing a corrupt politician selling out American values and liberty,” Democratic Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., wrote in response to Pompeo’s tweet. “Like your boss. [Lisa Simpson voice actor Yeardley Smith] can probably explain better than I can. Nice self-own though.”
In this episode Lisa loses her faith in democracy after seeing a corrupt politician selling out American values and liberty. Like your boss. @YeardleySmith can probably explain better than I can.— Bill Pascrell, Jr. (@BillPascrell) February 5, 2020
Nice self-own though. https://t.co/HeoDqv6Npy
Users aren’t 100 percent on board with Bloomberg’s latest push in political memes, either, despite the fact that the posts have amassed hundreds of thousands of likes this week.
“I hate this,” Ed Droste, frontman of the indie rock band Grizzly Bear, wrote in reply to Jerry Media’s sponsored Bloomberg post on Thursday.
Josh Ostrovsky, better known as the man behind the meme account The Fat Jewish, commented on one post that Bloomberg had asked him to do it and he had said no, because “Bloomberg is a colossal s—bag.”
“This is a clear example of what wealth can get you votes,” another user wrote. “Bloomberg’s a billionaire and is able to pull in endorsements like [this].”
But other influential pages are still taking notice. On Jerry Media’s Bloomberg meme post on Thursday, @tipsybartender, another influential profile with 4.5 million followers, replied: “Wait, can I get him to do a sponsored post with us?! I’m down!”
Another teen influencer behind the page @BigDadWhip told the Times that even though they can’t vote, they’re interested in collaborating with the candidate as well.
“I would be down — bread is bread,” the teenager behind @BigDadWhip told the Times. “That would be kind of dope. I could say I helped a presidential candidate.”